AN: This story is the first part in a (thus far) five part series. The second part is already posted here and is called "Warm Comfort." This story will be longer than "Warm Comfort." You do not have to read the second, third, fourth, and/or fifth parts to enjoy this little story, however, as it can be read as a stand-alone story. Yet, if you are interested in the rest of the series (which takes place after this tale), then check my author's page for more information.
Although never explicitly stated in the literature (to my knowledge) that it is otherwise, it is my head-canon that although Thranduil is Sindarin, his queen was Silvan. Therefore, Legolas is part Wood-Elf/Silvan/maybe even Green-Elf. It is at least evident from the books that he had engendered their culture, if nothing else. If you do not agree, that's fine, but for the purpose of this story, it is so. This is the least of the AU in the story, I suppose, especially in the latter parts that aren't posted to this site.
Once more, to be clear, this story is AU. Thanks for reading!
The human child ran as fast as his considerably shorter legs would take him, his excitement overshadowing his trepidation to meet his foster brothers' friend. Although he had heard Elladan and Elrohir speak often of the Prince of Eryn Galen, Estel had yet to meet him. Being only ten years old and having lived in The Last Homely House since he was two, the eight years of his having been fostered by Elrond seemed a long time to Estel, but to the twins the time had been terribly short. They had not seen Legolas in over fifteen years – a short wait for an Elf but still longer a wait than normal for the three friends to go without visiting each other. They were just as eager to greet the Prince; while their long legs only strode to the courtyard, Estel had trouble keeping up even though he was nearly running. He was constantly in awe of his much older brothers and sought to be like them in all ways. Wherever they went, the Adan was sure to be close behind if he was allowed and often he followed them even if he was not permitted.
Having lived in Imladris for as long as he could remember, Estel knew plenty about Elves. After the death of the Adan's father, who was little more than a name to Estel, the grieving Lady Gilraen had despaired of raising her only child and knew that she could not keep him safe, so had left him in the care of Lord Elrond and then returned to her people. To Estel, his mother was also little more than a name. His earliest memories were not of his true parents, but of the Elf whom he considered his father – Lord Elrond – and of the two identical Noldor whom he loved as his brothers – Elladan and Elrohir.
Estel was currently the only human living in the house, although occasionally a human merchant would pass through for trade. Once even, one of the Dúnedain came to the valley with an injury from fighting Orcs. Estel had not been allowed to see the Ranger but he had begged the story from the twins of how the Ranger had been injured. Yet, other than those few visitors, Estel had yet to meet anyone outside his foster father's household or the occasional messenger from Lothlórien. For the occupants of Rivendell, Prince Legolas' coming was a common occurrence. To Estel, it was the most exciting event yet to have happened to him.
Elrohir and Elladan were already in the courtyard by the time that Estel finally made it. The young human hitched his trousers up and straightened his tunic, huffing with exertion as he slowed upon his approach to the twins. Thus far, the Wood-Elves had yet to come down the winding path that led from the foothill above down into the narrow valley in which Rivendell sat. He could only just make out the four mounted beings at the start of the steep, rocky path.
"Look who finally showed," Elladan ribbed Estel, tousling the Adan's curly hair with unconcealed affection. In Estel's experience with the Elves of Imladris, most were reserved to the point of being boring. Not his twin brothers, though.
"He can't help it if his legs are short!" Elrohir defended the Adan with a merry laugh.
Giving the two Noldor a grin, Estel climbed onto the balustrade of the courtyard's steps with enthusiastic, childish energy, and perched upon it to wait. "One day," he assured them, "my legs will be long and I will outrun you both!"
His foster brothers hadn't the heart to tell the human that he wasn't ever likely to be able to outrun them. Estel had not yet learnt the limitations of being an Adan instead of an Elf. So instead, the younger twin teased, "Yes, when Elladan is old and grey, you might finally be able to outrun him."
Elladan snickered at this although the human child wasn't sure what was funny. Although no fool, Estel had not quite grasped the strange humor that his foster brothers shared. The identical brothers were an odd pair, often confusing others – including Estel – for their own amusement. They were well-loved in Imladris, though, and whereas the pranks and jokes they told and pulled would have caused strife had they been anyone else, the population of the valley took the twins in stride for the pair of brothers always meant well, were valorous and helpful, shared their father's skill in healing and warcraft, and despite their sometimes juvenile actions, both had sharp minds and wise counsel for anyone who asked it of them.
"You ought to be careful, Estel," Elrohir said in a hushed tone. Both twins looked suddenly serious as they drew close to where the human sat on the balustrade. "Wood-Elves are much different than the Elves who live here in the valley."
"Yes," Elladan continued, picking up his twin's narrative as if he knew just what falsehood his brother had cooked up. Perhaps he didn't know what fib Elrohir intended to tell the Adan, but he could see that his identical brother was brewing mischief. Few in years, Estel had yet to learn how to discern when his foster brothers were being mendacious for the purpose of their strange fun and so listened raptly when Elladan told him, "The Silvan of the Greenwood are not like the Noldor whom you live among now, nor are they the same as our mother's people in Lothlórien."
The young human turned his gaze back to the slow descent of the Elves in question, who were still making their way single file down the narrow walkway to the valley. There were others means of getting into the hidden vale, but Estel supposed that this one must have been closest to from where the Silvan had come. To his recollection, he had never been outside the valley; according to his foster Ada, it would be a few years yet before he would get the chance. "But he is your friend, you said. He's not dangerous, is he?"
"Yes, yes," Elrohir told Estel, "he is our friend, but we are Elves, as well, so we have nothing to fear. Legolas is the most dangerous out of all of his kin, for he is not only a Wood-Elf but their Prince." The younger of the twins came to stand just beside the young Adan, speaking to him as if the Wood-Elves – who had only now reached the bottom of the trail and would soon begin to cross the bridge that joined the southern bank of the Bruinen to the northern bank where they waited – might overhear their conversation. "You must be careful," Elrohir said in a hush, "because the royalty of the Silvan of the Greenwood use strange magic, and to perform this magic, they must make use of young human boys."
"Elrohir," the elder twin admonished with a wry smile, "don't tell him stories like that. You'll give him nightmares!"
The younger twin rolled his eyes at his elder brother but held his hands up in acquiescence, saying, "Fine, fine. We will let him learn on his own, then."
Elladan laughed boisterously at his brother and then again at Estel's worried frown. To appease the young human, he told Estel, "Don't worry. Wood-Elves don't use human children for their magic." Ruffling the Adan's hair affectionately, as the twins were wont to do and did as often as Estel was within reach, he added in a whisper, "Not all of them, anyway. Just pieces."
At this, Elrohir laughed just as loudly as his brother had before and clapped Estel on the back, causing the Adan to tip over and then roll off the balustrade on which he had been sitting. Estel landed deftly on his feet while thinking, I can never tell when they are joking or being serious!
Finally, the Silvan were across the bridge and coming into the courtyard, their horses blowing through their wide nostrils great gusts of air from the effort of their arduous journey, their riders covered in dust and mud and smelling of horseflesh. Although each of the Elves was dressed differently, they all wore similar colors – dark fir green tunics, fawn and bark colored, doeskin trousers, and undershirts of varying lighter hues. While two had light hair with similar shades of blue eyes, the other two had hair the color of well-steeped tea and their eyes were as dark brown as the mud that covered their boots. None of them was wearing armor except bracers but they all had short, undecorated bows upon their equally unornamented quivers. Two wore long swords at their waists, one had a set of long knives attached to his quiver, and the last had both a long sword and a set of knives. They were well-armed but not well-armored, it seemed to the young Adan – at least, not in the manner that he had seen his foster father's people dress when riding out to hunt Orcs or journey through treacherous lands.
With their brown legs and green arms, they look like trees, Estel thought, and then realized that this was probably the exact reason that they dressed so, for they would blend in well in the forest outfitted as they were. He knew only a little of the Silvan but from what he had been told, the Wood-Elves were more likely to hunt and battle from the trees than from the ground, so heavy, cumbersome armor only hindered them.
All Elves were fair to the human, but the fairest amongst the Silvan horsed before him and maybe the fairest male Elf that he'd ever seen was the tall, lithe Wood-Elf who had hair the color of butter, skin the color of cream, and teeth as white as milk. His sky blue eyes were full of liveliness when he brought his mare to a halt only a few feet in front of the Noldorin twins and their human foster brother. While the other Wood-Elves, who Estel guessed must be the Prince's sentries, were bowing where they sat upon their horses in deference to the twin sons of the Lord of the Last Homely House, one of the Wood-Elves did not act decorously but dismounted before his mare had even stopped.
I was right. Surely, this one is their Prince.
Hopping off his steed with a wide smile upon his face, this Elf's doeskin booted feet had barely touched the ground before he was moving towards Elladan and Elrohir, his arms raised in greeting. Together, the two Noldorin brothers soon had the Wood-Elf Prince squished between them in a tight hug.
"Greenleaf!" they welcomed the Silvan in tandem. Still with Legolas and Elrohir mishmashed in his arms and he in their arms, Elladan went on to receive the other Wood-Elves, calling one of them by name in saying, "Off your horse already, Kalin – you and your sentries. You know you are always welcome in our father's house."
With great interest, the Adan watched as the other of the fair-haired Silvan smiled and leapt down from his own horse. "Lord Elrond has our thanks, Lord Elladan, as do you, for your kindness and hospitality."
The other Silvan bounded down as well and within a few moments, stable hands appeared to lead away the tired horses. The two dark haired sentries gave their own short greetings and sincere thanks before they went on their way without being told by their Prince where to go; but then, they likely knew just where they'd be staying in the Last Homely House, as often as they came to visit with their Prince. Estel stayed near to the stair's balustrade where he could watch what was happening without being in the way. He was often in the way, it seemed. Although the other two sentries left, the one named Kalin remained behind, however, and with a puzzled look on his face, came to where Estel was lurking behind one of the posts of the railing. The sentry gave the human a benevolent smile and a nod, and then leant upon the railing near to him.
If Wood-Elves use young human children for magic, they wouldn't look so kind, would they? he questioned himself.
When at last the twins let go of the Prince of Eryn Galen, they led him straight to Estel. In mild surprise, Legolas looked down at the young one while Elrohir introduced him. "Meet our human brother, Silvan brother," he said with a laugh, calling Legolas his brother just as he did Estel, ere he turned to the young Adan to say, "Estel, meet Prince Legolas."
The Wood-Elf smiled at him and bent at the knee so that he was level to the Adan's height, and then Legolas bowed slightly as he said with a brilliant grin, "Greetings, Estel. I am Legolas, but in this house, amongst your brothers and father, I am often called Greenleaf. You may call me by either name, so long as you please do not call me Prince."
Immediately and despite his lingering suspicion of the Silvan nabbing him for some magical rite, Estel came out from behind the post where he'd been hiding, for the Prince's cheerful smile was as welcoming and friendly as a whole stack of honeyed cakes. Unable to resist, the Adan smiled back just as widely and said, "My name is Estel."